Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley
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Considerably more fun than it has any right to be, Detour has its cake and manages to eat it as well.
Young law student Harper (Tree of Life’s Tye Sheridan) believes that his parasitic, philandering step-father Vincent (True Blood’s Stephen Moyer) coordinated the car crash that sent Harper’s mother into the coma from which she has never awoken. As Harper drinks away his sorrows in a half-empty bar he’s approached by Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen), a borderline psychotic hustler and pimp Harper manages to recruit over the course of the evening into a half-arsed plan to kill his step-dad while he’s in Las Vegas on business. The next day, a hungover Harper is reluctantly launched on a road trip to Vegas with Johnny and his travelling companion, a brutalised stripper/girlfriend named Cherry (Bel Powley).
It’s at this point that the narrative begins to flip back-and-forth between one possible sequence of scenarios whereby Harper refuses to leave with Johnny and Cherry for their Vegas-bound adventure and another scenario, where he does leave with them. Both courses of action lead to dark and violent journeys. It’s the same device seen in Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow however it’s been retooled to suit a noir narrative.
Christopher Smith’s (Creep, Triangle, Black Death) direction is impressively taut and focused, clearly rebelling in the neo-noir genre theatrics. He references the Paul Newman film Harper, riffs on Brian De Palma’s heavy use of split-screen and even includes a clip from the bleak 1946 noir, Detour, starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage, as if to emphasise the cinematic lineage which inspired this story. The cast are all impressive, particularly Cohen, who is malevolent and tortured within the same beat. In the Name of the Father’s John Lynch also earns a mention, in his brief but disturbingly intense role as Frank, a drug dealer looking for a debt to be repaid. The film’s structure is jarring but it’s never overly-complex and it’s never less than compelling. It even manages to subvert expectations at one stage in the narrative, by flipping perceptions on their head once more. Considerably more fun than it has any right to be, Detour has its cake and manages to eat it as well.